The Panty Line Problem

I think that your interview effectively illustrates the points made in our text about “women’s magazines” and the often contradictory narratives of self-empowerment and conforming to socially acceptable performances of gender. The “panty line” example really sticks out in my mind, because it suggests that while women should be independent, enlightened and have agency, they should perform their roles while being fabulously feminine fashionistas. Magazines in this case enforce gender expectations for grooming and help to alert others of what type of conduct to police in their peers. The comment that you make about suffering socially for the “unsightly” panty lines provides a great example of the real life experiences of many women. They read magazines, such as Seventeen and Glamour, and the articles either they read or their peers read created a yardstick to measure and critique their femininity. Our text suggests that Cosmo created an in-depth and extensive list of expectations for women to adhere:  women needed to be “sexy, successful, glamorous and hardworking” (58). One thought that came to my mind was the way that being “sexy” and “glamorous” led to one’s success, either in the workplace or outside because of adherence to gender roles. One is celebrated if she adheres and counsels others against misconduct, offering alternative advice if the articles in these magazines do not, because there isn’t “much tolerance for the imperfect or unsexy.” (58) A second theme that seemed to run through your interview was that of self-grooming in order to be attractive and socially desirable. Seventeen and Glamour target women of different ages and in this way the different magazines almost serve as training manuals for the next stage in a women’s development in both her sexuality and her gender performance. For example, Seventeen may prime a younger girl to look feminine and this training could be continued in Glamour. The text states that “Cosmo’s dreams are almost always heterosexual” which points to the fact that the gender (and sexuality) policing needed to look the part of the “new independent” heterosexual women to attract a mate and to gain the sexual liberation the magazines promised women if, and only if, they followed its careful (and at times patriarchal) advice.

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2 thoughts on “The Panty Line Problem

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